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Public school advocates announce lawsuit against state

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The Highland Park school district is almost out of cash. The state is working on a solution to keep kids in school.

A controversial item in the current budget is the focus of a lawsuit filed today.


When the budget was approved last October, the state allocated $2.5 million to reimburse private schools for state requirements like fire drills, background checks, and keeping inhalers in the buildings. 

The lawsuit – filed by numerous public school advocates against the state and Governor Rick Snyder – says that is unconstitutional and asks for a preliminary injunction to prevent the state from giving out any funds until the court completes a full review of the case. 

Michigan Association of School Boards is spearheading the lawsuit. Executive Director Don Wotruba said public schools already have “dwindling resources going into our schools just based on normal resources.”


“To see more money leaving for a purpose that we believe is unconstitutional, on behalf of our members we just felt it was important to stand up,” Wotruba said.


Detroit mom and member of a parent group, Wytrice Harris said allowing private schools to get public money is like “double-dipping.”


“We want quality schools, we want quality choices, we want everyone to be able to go wherever they want to go,” she said. “But we don’t want to distract or take away from our public schools in order for that to be done.”


But advocates of the reimbursement disagree. They argue that because the money is not going toward education or curriculum, it does not violate the constitution. Republican Representative Tim Kelly was an advocate of including the appropriation in the budget. He called the lawsuit unfortunate and sad. 

“I’m tired of all this acrimony about what other students are doing,” he said. “We need to help all students all the time and it’s nonsense.”


Governor Rick Snyder previously asked the Michigan Supreme Court to weigh in on the constitutionality of the reimbursement, but it refused.

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R